IRMA: Polk County hotel rooms booked to capacity, tourism office says

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, September 07, 2017, 9:24 PM EDT

All of the major hotel chains in Polk County are booked this weekend, according to Visit Central Florida’s Mark Jackson.

  • Most rooms booked by Irma evacuees
  • Reservations account for 7,000 available rooms
  • Those still looking for rooms should look at vacation properties

Jackson said that accounts for 7,000 rooms available in the county. Most of them were booked by Hurricane Irma evacuees.

Port St. Lucie resident Alex Walker booked his room Tuesday.

"I like to err on the side of caution," said Walker. "If I was maybe 30 years younger, I'd probably have one of those hurricane parties or something, you know."

At the Days Inn & Suites Lakeland off of I-4, where Walker booked his stay, there was a steady stream of guests.

“The past couple days have been extremely chaotic,” said front desk attendant John Edick. “The phones have been ringing off of the hook. We've got people calling from the east coast, west coast, South Florida, the Keys."

The added volume of reservations started coming in late Sunday.
 
"This really happened within a few hours," Edick said. "I would say Sunday, midnight to 2 a.m., reservations just started pouring in."

Howard Mack was lucky enough to get one of the rooms that was available due to a cancellation. The Lakeland native said he wanted to be out of his mobile home and comfortable during the storm.

"Most everybody is booked up throughout the whole weekend,” said Mack.  

Edick said the hotel’s owner has been preparing for the worst.

"We're prepared for a power outage," Edick said. "We don’t have generators but we have flashlights, bottled water, candles. He’s been going to the store everyday making sure we can get the supplies that we need."
 
Jackson said anyone still looking for a room should contact some of the vacation home properties, as some have a few homes available for the weekend.

He also said Visit Central Florida’s customer service line will continue responding to inquiries throughout the weekend at (863) 420-2586.